At Newport’s Sam Case Elementary School, the fifth grade class taught by Olivia Schroeder has started an Ocean Club, which has a goal of keeping the ocean safe. (Surfrider Foundation has a network of student clubs that offer a wide range of activities ranging from beach cleanups to eliminating single use plastics on-campus to making campuses greener.)

In mid-October, Olivia and two of her students, Jordan Ingalls and Oliver Peralta, spoke at the Newport Surfrider Chapter’s monthly meeting. There, they told the Foundation’s members about some of the projects they’ve been working on, including making reusable beeswax wraps to replace throwaway bags and plastic wrap. The wraps are being sold as a fundraiser for ocean-based activities and trips for the class. In addition, the class is raffling off a surfboard—donated by the Newport Surfrider group and Russo Surfboards—that has been signed by various local businesses.

Olivia and the students also talked to the Newport News Times. “We firmly believe that when you love something, you want to protect it,” Olivia told the newspaper. “So the reason why I wanted to start an ocean club is because I thought we could get the youth more engaged in experiences that connect them to the ocean.”

“So what I learned is that 75.1 percent of the trash in the ocean is plastic,” Jordan, one of the students, said. “And that the number one thing is plastic bottles… Plastic bags are the second thing and then food wrappers—those we do not like.”

Oliver, another one of the students, told the Surfrider group about picking up litter he found while waiting with his family at Dutch Bros., and how it started with one piece and before he knew it, he had gathered up a bunch of trash. One small thing led to another.

Olivia will be sharing more about the class’s efforts in an upcoming article for Sea Together Magazine.

Hopefully, Olivia’s class will grow up with a love of protecting the ocean, a love that they can eventually pass on to their children. We often speak about preserving the ocean and the environment for the next generation, but sometimes that next generation can also make a difference. Why wait?